Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/391

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eminent writer of his age, was born near Monkwearmouth in 673, and passed his life in the monastery there. He not only wrote the history of our island and nation, but treatises on the nature of things, astronomy, chronology, arithmetic, medicine, philosophy, grammar / rhetoric, poetry, music, basing his work on that of Pliny. He died in 735, in which year his great follower was born in Yorkshire. I refer to Alcuin. He was educated at the Cathedral School at York under Archbishop Egbert, and, having imbibed everything he could learn from the writings of Bede and others, was soon recognized as one of the greatest scholars of the time. On returning from Rome, whither he had been sent by Eaubald to receive the pallium, he met Karl the Great, King of the Franks and Lombards, who eventually induced him to take up his residence at his court, to become his instructor in the sciences. Karl (or Charlemagne) then was the greatest figure in the world, and although as King of the Franks and Lombards, and subsequently Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, his court was generally at Aachen, he was constantly traveling throughout his dominions. He was induced, in consequence of Alcuin's influence, not only to have a school always about him on his journeys, but to establish, or foster, such schools wherever he went. Hence it has been affirmed that "France is indebted to Alcuin for all the polite learning it boasted of in that and the following ages." The universities of Paris, Tours, Fulden, Soissons, and others were not actually founded in his day, but the monastic and cathedral schools out of which they eventually sprang were strengthened, and indeed a considerable scheme of education for priests was established—that is, an education free from all sciences, and in which philosophy alone was considered.

Karl the Great died in 814, and after his death the eastward traveling wave, thus started by Bede and Alcuin, slightly but very gradually increased in height. Two centuries later, however, the conditions were changed. We find ourselves in presence of interference phenomena, for then there was a meeting with another wave traveling westward, and this meeting was the origin of the European universities. The wave now manifested traveling westerly, spread outward from Arab centers first and finally from Constantinople, when its vast stores of Greek lore were opened by the conquest of the city.

The first wavelet justified Eudemus's generalization that "the invention of the sciences originated in practical needs," and that knowledge for its own sake was not the determining factor. The year had been determined, stone circles erected almost everywhere, and fires signaled from them, giving notice of the longest and shortest days, so that agriculture was provided for, even away from